The European Union should avoid jubilation following the victory of the ‘yes’ camp in Ireland’s referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Piotr Maciej Kaczy?ski from the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) told EURACTIV in an interview. The resounding Irish ‘yes’, he said, should be understood as reflecting the desire of a small country to find allies during the economic recession.
Piotr Maciej Kaczy?ski is a political scientist and a visiting lecturer at various universities.
He was speaking to EURACTIV’s Georgi Gotev.
What changed in Europe today?
What changed today is that we have a pro-treaty momentum, because in the past, sixteen months ago, after the first Irish referendum, the momentum was for the ‘no’ side, with critical voices from the camps of Czech President Václav Klaus, of Polish president Lech Kaczy?ski, or even from the German constitutional court.
And there was also the Czech constitutional court, the ratification in the Czech parliament, both in the house and the Senate: in all those places one had to defend the legitimacy of the project.
Right now, with the second positive Irish referendum, all these questions about legitimacy are left behind. The legitimacy has been confirmed, the people have spoken positively. And by doing so they eliminated the previous ‘no’, and with that, we are very close to finalisation of the ratification process.
Two signatures are missing, though. Let’s start by what is seen as an easier case – the Polish president’s signature. What can we expect?
In Poland indeed the situation is much easier than in the other case. The situation is that President Lech Kaczy?ski decided not to finalise the ratification, in spite of the fact that both chambers of parliament ratified the treaty back in 2008, because of the Irish referendum.
The position of the Polish president is not that he disagrees with the contents of the Lisbon Treaty. But President Kaczy?ski didn’t like that Ireland was singled out alone. He said that he would wait for the second Irish referendum, and if the Irish said ‘yes’, he would finalise the Polish ratification. According to the latest news, this should happen in a couple of days.
The Polish president said he would sign the treaty only when it was certain that the treaty would enter into force. This means that he would be the last to sign. But Klaus also said he would be last to sign. So what’s going to happen? Are they going to sign together, holding hands?
[Laughs]. But we know today that the treaty will enter into force.
Because there is no one who can stop the treaty from entering into force. Presidents Kaczy?ski or Klaus have no veto powers against this treaty. The veto powers belong to the publics and the parliaments. So as long as any other country, especially the UK, does not change their position on ratification, there is no danger of someone pulling a red card on the treaty.
The only power of the Czech and Polish presidents is to delay the process. So the question is not if, but when the treaty will enter into force.
Then please answer the more difficult question: when will Klaus sign?
His position is very well known. He doesn’t like the treaty for its content. He strongly disagrees with it, and that’s his biggest difference with the Polish president. But it would be still very difficult for President Klaus to deny ratification.
There are also ways to eliminate the president from the picture. It’s gossip at this stage, it is speculation, but such scenarios have been laid out. One is that the president could undergo an operation, for which he gives his powers up for about two hours, and during that time, whoever is in charge according to the constitution, performs the duty of head of state.
We do remember the Belgian case when King Baudouin refused to sign a bill on abortion in 1990. He abdicated for a day and became king again 24 hours later – for the purpose of not putting his signature under that piece of legislation.
You seem to have a lot of insight. What will be the medical cause for this absence of power?
[Laughs] Politics is a game with very few rules. Different creative possibilities are to be considered. I’m not saying that he will go to hospital and have an operation on his knee, I’m saying there are creative and face-saving ways to come out of the situation.
Don’t you think that Europeans are sometimes sickened by politics, perhaps because of too much such ‘creativity’?
Well, politics is a dirty game. It’s always been like that.
But this time it’s too obvious, isn’t it?
Exactly. But again, as any other time. We’ve seen this hundreds of times, on national level and on international level: that politics is a dirty, brutal game. If politicians are gentle people, there is very little room for them.
What is your advice following the Irish referendum?
We should avoid jubilation in the ‘yes’ camp. It is a strong message coming from the Irish people, definitely, but it comes out of fear. It comes from a small country that is fearful that it would not be able to deal with the global economic recession on its own, and therefore it seeks friends. There is a very strong responsibility with Europe, put by the Irish people, to deal with this economic situation jointly, at a European level.
The fact that Poland and the Czech Republic, or their presidents, are creating problems: is this damaging the image of Eastern Europe?
Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, all of them are undergoing, at different stages though, a certain hiccup in the sense that after joining the EU they had to find a new role for themselves in Europe.
And in this process of re-identification in the EU, they get lost sometimes. We saw this from Slovenia’s veto on Croatia’s accession to the Slovak nationalist extreme right sitting in the government, and in Poland as well, during Jaroslav Kaczy?ski’s government, from riots in Latvia and even the taking down of President Paksas in Lithuania [in 2004, Rolandas Paksas became the first EU head of state to be impeached], that all those countries have problems stemming from a very long and tiring transition period.
Back to your question: no, this does not contribute to their positive image, but this is temporary, those countries are also on their way to balancing themselves again.